To understand why there are so few women who practiced history painting the reader must know that females were not allowed to study academic art or the male nude until the 20th century.
Traditionally, art academies throughout Europe barred women from study and exhibiting their work. Very few women achieved membership in the art academies of Europe. Typically women who triumphed in achieving artistic training were related to a male artist, like a father/daughter relationship.
The question we can now ask, who were the daring women, that not only managed to achieve artistic training and success in the field, but ventured into the GRAND terrain of history painting between the time period of the Renaissance (14th-17th centuries) and the 19th century.
A remarkable discovery is a 21 foot long Last Supper painting by an artist-nun, from Florence, Italy by the name of Suor Plautilla-Nelli (1524-1588). Plautilla Nelli joined the convent--Santa Catarina of Siena, at the age of 14. It was run by Dominican Friars, who promoted devotional painting by religious women to avoid sloth. Nelli's Last Supper painting is the only known Last Supper painted by a female.
|The Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli, from Santa Maria Novella, Florence Italy (currently under restoration)|
|Detail of The Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli (currently under restoration)|
Here is a 10 foot magnificent version of The Lamentation with Saints by Nelli:
|Lamentation with Saints in The San Marco Museum, Florence, Italy|
by Suor Plautilla Nelli
|"Ascent to Calvary and Encounter with Veronica" by Caterina Van Hemessen"|
Lavinia Fontana (Italian 1552-1614) was a very successful artist in her day, being the breadwinner of the family at age 13. Here is an impressive composition by Lavinia:
|Assumption Of The Virgin With Saints Peter Chrysologus And Casein,1584,|
by Lavinia Fontana
Artemesia Gentileschi (1593-1656) was an Italian Baroque painter, of the generation following Caravaggio. She was the first woman to achieve membership in the Accademia de Belle Arti di Firenze in Italy. She was the daughter of Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi. She painted scenes of strong and suffering women. Her best known example is Judith Slaying Holofernes. She painted two versions of this scene. It captures the brutality of the scene with dynamic strength.
|Susanna and the Elders by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1620, Oil on canvas, 70 x 47 in,|
Schloss Weibenstein, Bavaria, Germany
|Judith Slaying Holofernes second version by Artemisia Gentileschi,1620-21, oil on canvas, 78.3 x64 in, Uffizi Gallery, |
|Ariadne Abandoned by Theseus, by Angelica Kauffman, pre-1782, Oil on Canvas 34 1/2 x28 in, |
collection of Germaldegalerie, Alte Meister, Dresden, Germany
|Bacchus and Ariadne by Angelica Kauffman, pre-1782, Private collection|
|The Legend of Cupid and Pysche by Angelica Kauffman, Private collection|
|The Dream of Happiness by Constance Mayer, 1819, Oil on canvas, Louvre museum, Paris, France|
|Venus and Sleeping Cupid by Constance Mayer, 1806, Oil on Canvas, 38 x 57 in, |
Wallace Collection, London
|The Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur, ~1854, Oil on canvas, 96 x 199 in, Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art|
|Scotland Forever by Lady Butler , 1881, Oil on Canvas, Leeds Art Gallery, Yorkshire, England|
|"The Return From Inkerman" by Lady Butler, 1877, Oil on canvas, Ferens Art Gallery, England|
|The Roll Call By Lady Butler, 36 x72 in, Oil on canvas, Royal collection |
(Private Collection of the British Royal Family)
Jennie Augusta Brownscombe 1850-1936, was an American Painter and founding member and teacher of the historic Art Student's League of New York City. She painted works about revolutionary and colonial American history.
|The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie Augusta Brownstone, 1914, Oil on canvas, Pilgrim Hall Museum Collection, Massachusetts|
These History Painters achieved something special and noble, against all odds..... an inspirational story.